Caffeine comes in a variety of forms through coffee, soda and energy drinks. When it comes in a pure, powdered form, doctors say it can kill you.
An Ohio teen overdosed on a powdered caffeine supplement just last week. Doctors say not knowing the safe dosage could cost a person their life.
ABC 17 wanted to know how readily available the supplement was in Columbia and found out from at least four health and supplement retailers, it’s not sold in stores because it’s too much of a liability. One store associate told ABC 17 it’s because most people don’t know how to use it.
The closest product that offers the same boost of energy are caffeine pills called, “Energize” that are available at Wal-Mart. Doctors tell ABC 17 they can be just as harmful as the powdered form.
Caffeine powder users have to buy special measuring spoons to accurately scoop the right amount. It’s measured in milligrams unlike the typical drink mixes. Mixing two spoonfuls in one cup is like drinking 70 Redbulls at once. Even a teaspoon of it is the same as downing 25 cups of coffee.
As for the caffeine pills from Wal-Mart, Dr. Scott Schultz with Providence Urgent Care said they can be just as lethal if taken incorrectly, but that goes with any method of caffeine consumed.
“If it’s soda, if it’s coffee, if it’s tea, if it’s a pill, if it’s a 5-hour energy, it doesn’t matter how,” Schultz said. “It’s the amount that you actually ingest.”
One man told ABC 17 because he can’t buy the powder in stores, he buys in bulk online. He uses the powder mainly for energy before workouts, and he doesn’t recommend it for simple, every day purposes.
Improper use can lead to overdose, which Dr. Schultz said starts with noticeable symptoms.
“You will feel your heart will be racing a little bit. You might start getting a little sweaty. You might get anxious,” he said. “You might have diarrhea or vomiting. If you have those symptoms, those would be the concerning things.”
Supplement stores in Columbia do sell healthier alternatives for those using powdered caffeine supplements. One product called, “Prime Drive,” is a drink mix that has no caffeine at all and is meant to replace even a simple cup of coffee.
The FDA is currently considering taking regulatory action on powdered caffeine supplements. Until then, they encourage everyone to avoid using the product.